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INSIDE POLITICS

Giuliani on "Spy" Accusations: "It's for Public Opinion"; Trump Leaves Arlington National Cemetery; Hayden: Many of Trump's Accusations "Have Absolutely Stuck" with Voters; Trump's Memorial Day Tweet Focuses on Economy; Employment; Partisans Pass Blame for Separating Families at Border. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 28, 2018 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:00] KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You see that there. And you hear from Rudy Giuliani saying he doesn't believe that Mueller is legitimate anymore, he did when he came in, which was a month ago. A lot has changed quickly for him. He's saying that, "I see Spygate," Of course, he's seen no evidence that there were spies inside the president's campaign, because no one has. The only people who are stated that as fact are the president and a few FOX News hosts.

You see it from Marco Rubio there. They know that the president is making these claims with no proof whatsoever. You notice how silent the Republicans who were in the briefing last week at the Department of Justice and on Capitol Hill, related to the Russia investigation, related to that confidential intelligence source that was a part of the Trump campaign advisors. It's been total silence from them so far.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But this leads right into what Rudy's initial comment was. They're fighting this for public opinion now. The vacuum that exists currently --

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JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I want to show -- I'm sorry. I just want to put this in context. The president is leaving Arlington National Cemetery where he's been for Memorial Day services. He's shaking hands with servicemembers, including members of the Honor Guard, as he leaves. Want to do that in the appropriate tone as we continue other conversations.

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KING: It is odd, the political controversies, political stories continue to swirl. One thing I will not do is involve the troops sitting at Arlington National Cemetery in the conversation on this special, solemn day. I salute the president for his remarks, as well. He was dead on in what he said today and the tone of what he said today. Back to this conversation. If you talk to the experts, you make a key

point -- Mitch McConnell, the one Republican who did speak, said, "I still support Robert Mueller. I wanted to get to the bottom of this. If he had seen evidence that this was born of some nefarious activity, he would have said something different."

Listen to Michael Hayden, former general, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who knows how these counterintelligence operations work. He believes the FBI did everything by the book, used human sources to try to figure out, were there people in touch with the Russians during the campaign. But he also gives the president, begrudgingly, some credit for turning public opinion into believing this might have happened in a nefarious way.

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GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: All of those are wrong. All of those are incorrect. All of those are stunningly normal in the development of intelligence and law enforcement. You know what, I talked to a lot of people in the country. For a lot of people in the country, one or another or many of those things have already stuck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The point being, General Hayden saying what the president is doing in the tweets is wrong, not factual, not right, reckless, irresponsible, but it's working.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The president is a master brander. I think what he's shown is that, in many ways, when it comes to things that the public doesn't understand, like investigative processes of the Intelligence Community, truth is in the eye of the beholder in a way. That's what he's doing here by playing to the public, by talking about Spygate when there's no evidence. It's a pattern. It's been happening. There's a germ of something to hang these accusations on. There's some person that was involved. It's not that they made this up out of the thin air. The way the involvement took place is not as serious as they're painting it to be. It starts with the House GOP, trickles up to the president and then --

(CROSSTALK)

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think -- I think Rudy Giuliani gave us a gift in journalism. When the president does this, we can say, this is why he's doing it, he's doing it for public relations reasons, and that's straight out of the president's lawyer.

KING: Again, there are venues. You can challenge this at any moment, court of law. Go ahead, make your case or go on TV.

Up next, the president tweets to honor the fallen but spends most of the tweet honoring himself.

And as we go to break, a scene from the World War II Memorial this morning. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:38:25] KING: Topping our political radar, the president's wife and daughter expressing their gratitude this Memorial Day for those who died to protect our freedom. Both Melania and Ivanka Trump posting tweets pointing out the sacrifices so many Americans have made on the battlefield.

The president also tweeting about the fallen heroes. But in that tweet, spending the bulk of his Memorial Day tweet talking about the strong economy and low unemployment.

We're watching the health of the former president, George H.W. Bush, this Memorial Day. The 93-year-old admitted to a hospital in Maine yesterday with low blood pressure and fatigue, according to his spokesman. The spokesman said Mr. Bush likely will be kept under observation for a few days. This comes, of course, a month after he endured a hospital stay in Texas for an infection that spread to his blood.

President Trump is getting a bipartisan warning from Congress as he proposes a lifeline to a Chinese telecom company. ZTE violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. Intelligence agencies also call it a key player in China's cyberwarfare. Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said Congress ready to block the president from allowing ZTE back into the U.S. market. And Republican Senator Marco Rubio says that vote would be overwhelming, enough, he says, to override any presidential veto.

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SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA; One of the things I hope Congress will do is not only put -- not even allow Chinese telecom companies to operate in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: The president going to sign that bill you propose?

RUBIO: I believe it will have a super majority. I think most members of Congress have come to understand the threat China poses, and I think there's a growing commitment in Congress to do something about what China is trying to do to the United States. This is a good place to start, as I said. I think we'll have a supermajority to do it.

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[12:40:02] KING: We'll keep an eye on that confrontation.

I want to come back to the tweet. I'll ask the question I asked afterwards: Why? The president was pitch perfect at Arlington National Cemetery. Pitch perfect in paying tribute to the families there, paying tribute to the fallen heroes, paying tribute to the day and importance of the day. In the tweet, he starts talking about low unemployment and the strong economy in the context of the fallen. His wife, by the way, her tweet is pitch perfect. Why?

SHEAR: I think it's the venue, right. I think that President Trump has carved out this Twitter universe for himself as a place where it's place to attack and defend. It's a place where he criticizes his adversaries. And it's a place where he brags. That's what he does. I guess the only answer is that he started typing out the tweet and reverted to form, which is bragging about himself.

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SHEAR: And the two don't match, but that's what he does.

COLLILNS: The tweet is him. That is him alone in the residence writing whatever he is thinking or dictating it to whoever. The speech is written by a cadre of aides who are making sure it's the perfect tone, perfect pitch for something like that.

KING: He still has to deliver it. He didn't go off script at Arlington National Cemetery, again, where he was pitch perfect. The tweet is just -- there are some days, sir, that are not about you. That's the way it is.

When we come back, it's an election year, there's a fight about immigration, and some horrifying stories coming from the border.

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[12:45:48] KING: More partisan finger pointing today over immigration amid some startling headlines from the border. Stories of mothers separated from their children after illegally entering the United States. And accounts of how the Trump administration lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied immigrant children in the past year. Democrats say it's proof to them the president has his priorities messed up.

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REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT, (D), NEW YORK: He wants massive deportations, he wants a wall built with the southern border and, yet, we don't have enough personnel to track 1,500 children, some of which, many of which are 4 years old. These are little children. Some of them are very young children. We have no idea where they are.

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KING: The White House says Democrats are to blame. In a rare Sunday evening statement, the White House said, in part, "Democrat policies led to the temporary separation of illegal alien families because they refused to close border loopholes that prevent those families from being swiftly returned home."

But Democrats would say, remember this, just earlier this month, the president's own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, enacted the very policy.

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JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you don't want your child to be separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. That child

may be separated from you as required by law.

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KING: Now the attorney general would say he's trying to send a deterrent message: Don't try. It won't happen if you don't try.

Democrats are saying the separation is heartless. A lot of conservatives saying that once they got across the border, do not take a child away from their parent. But here we are in this predictable, sadly, partisan sniping.

Anyone going to resolve the policy issues?

MATTINGLY: In the short term, the answer is no. There's a lot of people on the Hill who would like to figure out a pathway forward. As it stands, both sides aren't moving any closer any time soon. Sometimes it takes something like this to spark some type of movement. But until the president moves off his positions and Democrats move off where they are on overall immigration, there's not going to be a short-term fix to this minor issue. Nobody's going to be willing to move into this without a broader discussion about things.

Interesting almost here is the facts here actually matter. The 1,400 children that were lost, if you will, or lost count of, those are unaccompanied minors. Those are not a result of the current policy shift from the president. The president's policy shift is not the result of Democratic laws. This, as you note, and Jeff Sessions made clear, John Kelly made clear, this is a policy shift designed to disincentivize parents from bringing children to the border.

How this all wraps together is the parents will be separated, and the children will go to the same place, HHS and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, that the 1,400 kids were lost from originally. This all comes together in a broader theme, and I think the broader concern here. The reality is that barring a Supreme Court move on DACA or some type of massive shift on the Hill in terms of where people are, there's not going to be any change any time soon.

DEMIRJIAN: We've come together around the stories about children and young people whenever they happen, because it hits a nerve of people caring and having empathy for these poor kids that don't actually make the choice of what they'll do. It hasn't actually pushed the goal posts. It hasn't changed the equation in times past. We are bickering about DACA for how many months? It's not the first time we've been bickering about it. The president said, yes, I care. No, this is Democrats' fault because they won't give me border wall funding. It gets lost in the shuffle every time. This is, in a way, trickier. DACA was a simple fix if you want to look at that. When you're talking about kids, you are talking about unaccompanied minors separated from their parents. There are policies that say you can't keep kids in detention facilities. You're supposed to release them to next of kin. What about trafficking victims? It is quite complex. If you don't do something about the overarching problem of how you're going to treat people who come into the country, you can't fix the family separation issue simply.

KING: And as we count, by the second, closer to an election, it makes it harder. There's always the intractable quicksand of American politics. I'm going to posset to everybody on this set, this will only get fixed if the president gets in front of it. But have we seen any indication that he's willing to do that?

[12:49:56] SHEAR: No, we haven't seen any indication He wants to do that. He's sticking, as Phil said, to the list of demands that are very much never going to go anywhere in the current Congress as it's established.

KING: He could get his border money in exchange for a DACA fix, but it would leave a lot of other stuff on the table, right?

(CROSSTALK)

SHEAR: And he so far rejected that. I would also say, the one thing that's interesting here is there is some agreement, and the agreement on both sides is that the whole system is broken. That part of what's happening and why kids are being separated and unaccompanied children are going to places where we can't track them, is that the entire system of immigration is broken. What they can't agree on is how to fix it. That's the thing that is not going to be resolved by the time the election comes.

KING: Let's set politics aside for a moment as we go to break.

We want to take a moment on this day to remember Army Sergeant Conrad Robinson, a medical specialist. He died Thursday in Kosovo from a noncombat-related incident. Staff Sergeant Robinson grew up in San Marcos, California. Married with two children. Described as a man of few words, and a, quote, "get-it-done kind of guy." His mother told a local TV station that this was his last tour of duty for the 18-year veteran. This morning, his remains arrived at Dover Air Base. We honor Army Sergeant Robinson as we watch that ceremony there. Our condolences to his family.

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[12:55:32] KING: This is moments ago on this Memorial Day. The White House chief of staff, John Kelly, and his wife, Karen, stopping by to pay respects at the gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery of their son, First Lieutenant Robert M. Kelly, killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. He was 29 years old.

Barbara Starr was also nearby earlier this morning and she met the Bunting family there in Section 60.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICKI BUNTING, MOTHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: We called him Bubba, yes.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Tell me about Bubba.

BUNTING: He was just such an extraordinary man. He had the biggest smile. Never met a stranger. Made best friends with everyone. He had a heart of gold, just such a boisterous personality.

STARR: Bubba went on to serve in Afghanistan?

BUNTING: Correct, yes. And in 2007. And then he came home for R&R. After that, in 2009, is when he was killed.

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KING: There are moments like this going on across the country today. They are important moments.

At our table, we have some memories, as well -- Karoun?

DEMIRJIAN: Yes, my grandfather's brother was 21 years old when he died, serving as an Army private in the Battle of the Bulge. All four brothers did serve at some point. He's the one who didn't make it home.

KING: Amen to him.

Phil?

MATTINGLY: At the Vietnam veterans panel, 36W, line 76, you will see the name Thomas F. Odea. He was a career soldier, served in three separate wars. A voracious reader. He was fascinated by every culture he came across and was fluent in Mandarin, which I would have loved to at one point learned about. On Christmas day in 1968, he flew on a helicopter to visit his home-state troops. He did survive that trip. And his last letter home that reached his family, he talked about how he was looking forward to Christmas, 1969, back home and how he was thankful that his four children had just sent him a small Christmas tree so he could celebrate the holiday. One of those children was my mom. And Thomas Frances Odea Jr is on the wall. He was actually just a couple hundred yards away from where the president spoke. It means a tremendous amount to our family and also shows the importance for him this day personally but for all military families, particularly as the nation has moved away from a military that's experienced by all, but instead just a very small number.

KING: Amen to that thought.

Your parents are with us today, which is all the more special as we learn their story.

I grew up, my dad was active in the VFW. We spent every Memorial Day at the cemetery, at the parade, at the posts remembering, because we should remember, right?

MATTINGLY: Absolutely. DEMIRJIAN: Always.

KING: On this day, we'll say farewell on that note. It's odd discussing politics on this day. We had to do a little bit of that.

Thank you for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here at this time tomorrow.

Briana Keilar is in for Wolf Blitzer today and she picks up right now.

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[12:59:18] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Wolf Blitzer. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you so much for joining us.

Up first, President Trump pays tribute to the country's fallen heroes on this Memorial Day. But even as he honors their sacrifices, he is stepping up his attacks on the Russia investigation. At Arlington National Cemetery, the president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Today's solemn ceremony came in the middle of a tweet storm by the president railing against the Russia probe. Over the weekend, he returned to a familiar refrain, tweeting: "This whole Russia probe is rigged. Just an excuse as to why the Dems and Crooked Hillary lost the election in states that haven't been lost in decades. And 13 angry Democrats and all Dems, if you include the people who worked for Obama for eight years, #spygate and #conflictofinterest."

CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond, is joining us live now.